Friday, July 13, 2012

On Finishing Chemotherapy

Wow. When I started chemo back in March the end seemed an eternity away. Now I am done and just awaiting the final set of nasty side-effects to kick in and eventually pass. Unlike most breast cancer patients I'm still at the beginning of my treatment. This is not a graduation for me. But I'm hoping that this is the end of the worst part. The repeating "get sick, get better, get sick again" cycles have become more of a way of life than I imagine surgery or radiation being.

So what does it feel like to have finished? Well, my attitude in the chemo ward ("day care" as they call it at Princess Margaret to distinguish it from inpatient care) was 180° from my attitude during the first session. I was excited to get started. I had a huge smile on my face for most of the session. But now that chemo is done... what do I do now? My surgery date will be determined by the results of the various scans I have next week due to a loverly complicating case of DVT that I got during chemo. Will the cancer come back while my surgeon is working out a crafty plan to make recovery from surgery as uneventful as possible? So I guess now the recurrence fears will start up in earnest. I'm back to big unknowns - the thing that makes cancer so scary.

Anyway without further delay, here is a pictorial account of my last chemo day.

Here is my other half posing in my private chemo pod in Orange 25. This pod had probably ten free electrical outlets. A must for every technology geek! That flowery bag is full of chemo caps crocheted by my mom. The volunteers give out caps to those whose mothers are not so crafty (or do not have mothers), so I was dropping off my surplus caps to be gifted to fellow patients. (Note: I have not gotten permission from other half to post his photo, but at this moment my attitude is "I just had chemo, I'll do what I like.")

And here is yours truly in my celebratory purple wig, all hooked up to my meds (Herceptin in this photo). I love this wig; I always get tons of compliments and questions when I wear it.

<sarcasm>And now for the fun part!</sarcasm> I hated having to bring my finger tips and toes to the brink of frostbite everytime I got docetaxel. Never again! I'm doubled up on pre-heated blankets in this shot and I was still cold.

Getting ready to ring the bell. I will still be coming in every three weeks for Herceptin infusions, but Herceptin isn't technically chemo so the nurses let me ring the bell to celebrate ending the nasty part of the treatment.

Wailing on that bell!

Obligatory closed eye smile shot. I did it! (Not sure who that dude in the background is or what he was doing...)


  1. It's funny how all chemo rooms look so similar. Looking at your photos brought back memories.... Ugh. Congrats for getting to this point. No small feat. Good luck going forward. Love the purple wig.

  2. I just finished my 4th cycle of dose-dense Taxol (Carbo+Taxol on week 1; Taxol only of weeks 2 & 3 of each "cycle") and just learned about putting ice packs on hands and feet. I began getting neuropathy in my feet after only my third weekly treatment! I play violin and piano, so it spreading to my hands has been a very scary proposition. Sadly enough, not one of my medical professionals ever mentioned ice packs to me. I'm afraid my feet may be too far gone, but today, I brought my own Ziplok bag ice packs. Nurses looked at me like I was from outer space :-/

    Anyway, I'm just wondering if they did you any good?

  3. The ice packs aren't normally done with Taxol because the infusions take much longer than Taxotere infusions. I think it's still worth a try as long as you're careful about not giving yourself frostbite. The theory is to reduce the capillary circulation in the extremities to reduce the amount of drug absorbed in those areas. I didn't get any neuropathy and although my fingernails got weak and split a lot (for an entire year) none of them fell out.